There Was a Burning Man Who Lived in a Shoe…

Do you miss stories? I mean real stories with characters and heroic journeys and magic that works. Stories without screens or controls or cinematic cut scenes. Modern life is pretty impoverished in the stories department, which is actually a great reason to be a Burner. Burning Man gives life that sense of a mythic arc, and our Burning Man experiences are inseparable from the stories we tell about them.

Storied Haven is about getting that sense of story back. It’s the latest big art project from Five Ton Crane, the Oakland crew that brought you the Raygun Gothic Rocketship, the Steampunk Treehouse, and the Nautilus submarine. But just like all of their projects, Storied Haven will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.


Fairy Tales

You know the story of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe? No, the other version. No, not that version, the other other version. Well, Storied Haven is kind of like that. It’s the story beneath the story, the form of the story that stays true no matter how you tell it. And 5TC isn’t going to show you (or me) Storied Haven’s fleshed-out form until we get out to the playa, but you’ll get the gist.

I can tell you this much. Storied Haven is a place — a place full of things. Going in there will be to live in that place amongst the things, together, and what happens in there will be the story of that place, those things, these people. Storied Haven will contain our fairy tale. Fairy tales help us become brave, make us care about our heroes, the people in our stories. Fairy tales are scary tales, but when we hear them, we’re safe, tucked into our dreamy place, listening to a voice we trust.

Bree Photo: Jon Mitchell
Bree Hylkema (Photo: Jon Mitchell)

For this fairy tale, the voice we trust, the lead artist on Storied Haven, is Bree Hylkema. She’s a 5TC veteran, having done the interior design on the Nautilus, for instance. While maintaining her air of mystery about the form of the project, she assures us it will have the same scale and scope as 5TC’s past projects.

These aren’t just giant hell-yeah pieces, though. They also have a quiet intimacy — a treehouse, a submarine, the starry expanse of outer space — and Storied Haven will, too. “This is what I wish I saw more of,” Bree says of Storied Haven. “It’s a quiet piece.”

Loving the Details

She thinks they’ve found an ideal spot in Black Rock City, at 10:00-11:00ish, past the Man, not as far as the Temple. They don’t want Storied Haven to be a deep-playa art car destination because they don’t want it to be blasted by noise. Too much noise might overwhelm the story’s little details.

Those details will be exquisite thanks to the incredible diversity of skilled people 5TC always manages to bring around. While there’s always a lead artist on a project and captains of any major subsystems, the work is done by many autonomous hands, so each piece is like a gallery of individual art projects. 5TC’s center of gravity is the love shared amongst its large crew. The love frees the team to trust each other to just Do Their Thing to their various pieces of the project, which leads to the lavish details and eccentricities that make the pieces work.

5TC HQ (Photo: Jon Mitchell)
5TC HQ (Photo: Jon Mitchell)

Bree points out that it’s been four years since 5TC did a big project, but they’ve still seen plenty of each other in the meantime. They’re friends first and foremost, it’s just more fulfilling for them to make things together when they hang out, rather than sit around. “If everyone thinks it’s gorgeous, but we don’t get along with each other, that’s failure,” Bree says.

And because they know each other so well, they can plan the project towards individual strengths. That’s how it stays cohesive.

All this lovey-dovey stuff doesn’t mean 5TC isn’t in it for the challenge. On the contrary, they know just what kinds of risks to take. Just like with the aluminum on the rocketship, 5TC has to develop a new technique to make the skin of Storied Haven, and that’s half the fun. They can pull off some pretty impressive maneuvers. You know, rumor has it that on Burn Night, the Raygun Gothic Rocketship launched. It got 6-8 inches off the ground, they say. What tales will they tell about Storied Haven?

The Library

With Storied Haven, though, the stories held inside are just as important. In the digital world, we’re losing touch with books, the very bodies of stories, but Storied Haven will protect them in its library. Bree has found it troublingly easy to find beautiful, leather-bound books to keep in there. “They’re $1! Nobody wants them,” she laments. “Leather-bound books! It’s sad! Reading books is good for you.”

I bet there are plenty of story-loving Burners who share that sentiment. Storied Haven will be a home for them. As for how we live in there, while we’re there, that story is yet to be told. “I’m not trying to shape an experience,” Bree says. “I hope that people enjoy it.”

Storied Haven received an Honorarium Grant this year, and they just wrapped up a smashingly successful Indiegogo campaign.

About the author: Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell

, a.k.a. Argus, was publisher of the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, and the Burning Man website from 2016 to 2019. He joined the Comm Team as a volunteer in 2010 and as year-round staff in 2014. He co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012. His first Burn was in 2008.